Emily R. Sutcliffe

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Pennsylvania, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9930

Approve Date

October 24, 2019

Project Title

Sutcliffe, Emily (Pennsylvania, U. of) "Hijab and the Alchemy of Whiteness: Situating Race, American Identity, and Social Exclusion in White Convert Experiences," supervised by Dr. Deborah Thomas

This project is about race, religion, and gender – three categories that are essential to how people position themselves and attempt to understand others. While these categories are often explored separately, I propose to examine instances of their intersection and conflation. Through the lens of white female converts to Islam in the United States who have chosen to wear the hijab, I will track instances of racial reasoning embedded within their experiences as publicly identifiable Muslim women. Because such a conversion requires crossing religious boundaries, these female converts elucidate the contours and content of these boundaries, allowing us to investigate if they are only religious in nature of if they also embody racial change. These women are particularly fascinating in that their conversions mark a transition from a majority social status to a minority social status, offering a unique opportunity to make sense of how racial, religious, and gendered categories are operationalized. More broadly, this research explores the intricate imbrications of race, religion, and gender within culture, not as signs of an inevitable march toward tolerance, but as a process characterized by unpredictability and set within historical and contemporary landscapes of exclusion.